The last time the Golden Bears entered Husky Stadium the Huskies just stomped them in what was Tyrone Willingham's finest three hours as the Husky coach. Cal who was heavily favored was in a death spiral and Jeff Tedford seemed to have lost touch with his team. Washington using a reserve QB and a pounding running attack upset the Bears in dominating fashion. Last season Tedford addressed some concerns and made some changes and this year he has the Bears ready for a possible championship run.
Running back Jahvid Best rushed for 1,580 yards as a sophomore and averaged an incredible 8.1 yards per carry. He reached the end zone a total of 16 times and even returned some kick-offs. Best is a definite Heisman candidate and is probably the best back in the conference. The Cal offense will revolve around Best this season and he is going to generate a lot of national notice.
Kevin Riley takes over for Nate Longshore at quarterback. The two split time last season and Riley completed around 50% of his passes. The Bears return Alex Lagemann, Marvin Jones, Verran Tucker and Nyan Boateng at WR. None of them really stud out last season and if the Bears want to get to the next level those four players need to show some improvement. Cameron Morah graduated so the Bears are looking for a new TE.
The offensive line lost Alex Mack and Noris Malele. Chris Guarnero takes over at Center. Mack was a dominating player so you can expect a little fall off this year from the unit. On the outside the Bears return Donovan Edwards and Mitchell Schwartz so it isn't like theis is going to be a total rebuilding project.
On defense the Bears replace three of their four linebackers. Eddie Young is ready to take over the leadership role among the LB's and Mike Mohamed has star quality written all over him.. The secondary is loaded with the type of talent that used to wear purple and gold in the 1990's. Corner Syd’Quan Thompson is the best defensive player on the team and Marcus Ezeff has emerged as a quality safety whose best days are still in front of him. Cal ranked 14th in the nation in sacks last year and Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan will continue to put pressure on opposing defenses.
Most of the experts are picking Cal as a solid second to USC. I have to go with that too. The Bears look like they are going to have a pretty good defense een though they lost Worrell, Felder, and Follett to graduation. Tedford has recruited well and the defensive backfield is just stockpiled with talent.
The big question mark is the passing game. Can Riley and the receivers step it up enough so teams aren't going to be ganging up on Jahvid Best? If the Bears throw the ball well they could end up winning their first title since 1958 with Heisman for Best. If they can't throw the ball and teams concentrate soley on Best Oregon and Oregon State could slip by them in the standings.
The Bears are an easy pick even though they aren't going to be enjoying Seattle this late in the year which could be a factor. Simply put Cal has more talent and depth than Washington and they should beat them at this stage of the season. The game will be competitive as all games will be this season but I pick the Bears by two TD's led by Best picking up around 200 yards.